parachute so he could supply his men; what
you ate when C-rations were prohibitively
heavy to carry; how to make a bazooka and
explosives from household items.
Bridges returned to the war as it shifted
dramatically with the buildup of regular
American troops, making his a unique perspective on a conflict that remains difficult
You could read the CliffsNotes about
Vietnam, or you could read the James R.
Wilson Collection of the oral histories
of Vietnam veterans in an afternoon. It’s
three boxes of transcripts — vivid drama
and mundanity, but unvarnished. The Red
Cross aide who recalled the men in her college classes trying everything to keep their
exemptions; the guy who broke past security at an air show to ask a Marine what he
had to do to become a Marine pilot; the
people who killed and were terrified and
who got back.
Wilson’s quest started in a graduate
course at Duke University about the nature of war. A press officer in Vietnam
and a retired journalist, he knew how to
“construct a tree” whose branches would
lead him through a network of veterans.
His wife, Betty Krimminger ’ 72 (MSW),
had worked extensively with researchers in
the Southern Historical Collection. When
Giemza came over to listen to his tapes and
read his transcripts, there was no question
where the material would go.
“As in so many wars, the Southerners
carried a disproportionate share of the
burden,” Wilson said. He traveled about
12,000 miles in two years gathering interviews. “It was immensely satisfying.”
David E. Brown ’ 75 is senior associate editor of
FILE: JANE KNOWLES
85TH EVAC HOSPITAL
“I was young -- I was afraid the war was gonna be
over before I got there. Does that make any sense?
It was just not a good time for women going in the
service. Nobody really believed there was a war
over there ’til after the fact.”
Listen to Jim White ’ 71 tell the story
of the Jim White Oral History collection:
U.S. Marines of Company G, 2nd
Battalion, 3rd Marines inch their way
toward the summit of Hill 881N during
the Battle for Khe Sanh, 1967.
U.S. MARINE CORPS HISTORY AND MUSEUMS DIVISION
All italicized excerpts are from the Jim White
Collection, which still is being processed by the
Southern Historical Collection at Wilson Library;
as is Rusty Edmister’s N.C. Military Veteran Oral
History Project, which is described at www.
ncvetoralhistory.org. The James R. Wilson Collec-
tion can be read at the SHC. Select portions of
each of the collections will be digitized as fund-
ing is available.